The SP AF 70-200mm F2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro is Tamron's latest lens, announced at the end of February 2008. A fast telephoto zoom for the more budget-conscious photographer, the design features 19 elements on 16 groups, including three Low Dispersion (LD) glass elements for minimizing chromatic aberration. Tamron say the lens is 'packed with features that allow stress-free photography', and accordingly these are indicated by the plethora of initials packed into that painfully protracted lens name. 'SP' designates this to be a member of Tamron's top-line 'Special Performance' range, 'Di' indicates that it is 'Digitally Integrated' (i.e. optimized for DSLR use, but still covering the full-frame 35mm format), and IF reveals that it incorporates an internal focusing mechanism. Finally the 'Macro' description provides a clue to one of this lens's more interesting characteristics, a minimum focusing distance of 0.95m, which leads to a class-leading reproduction ratio of 0.32x; slightly ahead of the Sigma equivalent's 1m/0.28x, and significantly better than the ~1.5m more typical of this class.
Tamron has something of a history of producing high quality affordable fast zooms, as exemplified by the SP AF 28-75mm F2.8 Di LD Aspherical (IF) Macro, which has become something of a cult classic due to its winning combination of excellent optics, a compact lightweight body and keen pricing (especially in comparison to F2.8 standard zooms from the major camera manufacturers). It's therefore no surprise to see Tamron emphasizing in its publicity material that this product concept has been retained for the new 70-200mm. Of course this lens is also by no means the company's first foray into fast telezoom territory, and photographers whose experience stretches back to the days of film will remember the SP AF 70-210mm LD and the older manual focus SP 80-200mm LD; this is a len with undeniable pedigree.
The 70-200mm Macro is slated to be available in Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax-mount versions (although only the Canon and Nikon models are currently shipping as of June 2008), making this a viable alternative to OEM lenses for the majority of DSLR users. Additionally, the Nikon mount variant incorporates a built-in autofocus motor, making it fully compatible with the D40-D40x-D60 range of budget DSLRs. Perhaps most importantly, the lens is available at an undeniably attractive price point, even shortly after its release, further increasing its buyer appeal. However the big question to be answered is of course whether the optics and performance can compete with the class leaders; let's find out.